The Times of India

JAIPUR: The Supreme Court's landmark verdict allowing, for the first time, voters to cast negative vote by pressing a button saying none of the candidates are worthy of their vote was welcomed by members of the civil society who have been fighting for electoral reforms.

"It is a very good judgment and indeed laudable. People now have a chance to reject someone if they don't like him or her," said Nikhil Dey, Rajasthan coordinator of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). "There has been this Section 49 (O) of the Conduct of Elections rules 1961. But this is even better," he added.

"With the help of this verdict one will know that people are interested in democracy and want to vote but since they don't find any candidate fit they are forced to use the None Of The Above (NOTA) button on EVMs and ballot papers. This allows one to reject a candidate," he said.

The judgment of the apex court on Friday directs the Election Commission of India to give the electorate provision for NOTA where in a voter can reject all candidates in a constituency. As per the court order, the commission has to start the exercise with the assembly elections scheduled this year. Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram will be the first ones to exercise the right to reject during assembly elections.

"The Constitution allows a person not to vote and no one can be dragged to a poling booth. But after this judgment a person can let his intentions be known that he would love to vote but is forced to stay away from it as none of the candidates fit his bill," Dey said.

The Conduct of Election Rule 1961 under Section 49 (O) provides the right to reject all the candidates in the fray by voters. Under the Section in the extreme event that a person does not wish to cast his vote to anyone, he can register his decision not to exercise his choice.

According to the provision in Section 49 (O), if an elector decides not to vote then after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters and he has put his signature or thumb impression, a remark stating the wish of the electorate to not vote is to be made by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector is to be obtained against such remark.

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